OPERA HAS RESTOCKED its ammunition in the browser wars, having released Opera Unite with Opera 10, a tool which fundamentally turns any computer or device running Opera into a Web server.
Unite's big pitch is that it can turn a user's browser into a front end for sharing photos, files and music. It also has features like chat and other social media-style apps.
Opera wants developers to write their own apps for Unite (Opera Unite services) to directly link people's computers together "so that you can connect with one or more of your friends at the same time," in the words of the marketing blah. Since all the apps are browser based, Opera says no additional software is needed and the features will work wherever Opera is installed - on Windows, Mac, Linux or mobile phones.
The problem is, even after only half a day of testing it, we've discovered some gaping security holes which would appear to leave the system open to abuse.
The first flaw we noticed was that Unite left a user's connection vulnerable to hackers because everything to do with user pages is run through the browser, effectively turning a machine into a personal server. In other words, anyone connecting to your page on Unite is connecting to your computer. Not that this is a bad idea - it does allow for some interesting possibilities - it just opens up a Pandora's box of unpleasantness at the same time.
A virtual fridge door allows people to leave you sticky-note-style messages while you're offline. A lovely idea in theory, but it has no password protection, so expect to log on and find your fridge door plastered with 90,000 offers of viagra, designer watches and Russian mail-order brides.
You can also run your own chat direct from your personal page. Again, great idea, but what if a terrorist group turns an unsuspecting user's chat into a dead drop, meeting on their pages even if said user has nothing to do with the undesirables?
The photo sharing app allows users to drag and drop files into a sharing folder, displayable on a user's Unite page. Nifty. And you can password-protect photos, because if you don't you'll be sharing those candid holiday snaps with more than close friends.
The images people share are not hotlink protected, so they can be embedded on forums and other people's sites. Likewise, when we tested creating a forum post on our private forum, we discovered it quickly ate our bandwidth. Now imagine someone else quoting, copying and repasting on another forum. Not a happy thought.
What we really liked, but the RIAA is sure to hate, is the file sharing app, allowing users to share their music and video libraries with anyone. Did anyone say ‘impending lawsuit'?
Opera has indeed created something with epic potential here - IF it alleviates the security concerns. The interface is simple and clean, it's easy to use and in our INQpinion, Opera is making a smart move by targeting the massive social media market which could tip the browser war scales in Opera's favour.
Just please do us a favour... if you're going to use it, password-protect your stuff. µ
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